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Sweeney supports free speech of players, despite Tencent's Epic Games investment stake

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney shot down any speculation that the company will block the free speech of players. "That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder."


As calls for boycotts of Blizzard spread across the Internet, players have taken aim at Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer Epic Games. The company is partially owned by Chinese media conglomerate Tencent Holdings, but Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has clarified what that invesment stake means from a decision making standpoint at the company. We asked Tim about Tencent in an interview at GDC 2018. 

Speaking to The Verge this week, an Epic Games spokesperson stated, “Epic supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights. We wouldn’t ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics.” Sweeney has been pretty vocal today on social media, tweeting at several critics to clarify how decisions are made at Epic Games.

Here's a breakdown of the conversation:

Jason Schreier, Kotaku: It'll be fascinating to see what Blizzard does and says today. Do they backtrack, risking the loss of billions of dollars as a result? Or do they continue supporting an authoritarian regime, alienating fans and employees in their never-ending pursuit of growth? Capitalism owns

Transdimensional CatSpider, @TCatspider: I'm more interested what @TimSweeneyEpic has to say. His company is 40% owned by Tencent after all.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games: Epic Supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights.

Гусебесие и сосаети, @calibrono: so if say @tfue said "Free Hong Kong" in a post-game interview, you wouldn't do anything?

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games: Exactly.

Cherrish Choerry, @CherrishChoerry: I thought your company had a majority investor from the Chinese? Surely it would just end up in a similar situation, Investor pulls out, big chunk of cashflow? It’s not the right decision to make but I’m sure it puts any company on the edge

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games: Epic is a US company and I’m the controlling shareholder. Tencent is an approximately 40% shareholder, and there are many other shareholders including employees and investors.

Cherrish Choerry, @CherrishChoerry: 40% is a big cut though. They’re already apparently pulling out of the NBA League. Can you honestly say if a similar event happened you wouldn’t have to, sever ties with said influential figure, i.e the NBA coach/Hearthstone Champ

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games: Yes, absolutely. That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder.

In our interview with Sweeney at GDC 2018, he detailed the relationship with Tencent. "They're just going around and making investments in companies they think have potential in the industry. They've been a good partner in just giving us advice, but we don't see them all that much actually." 

Sweeney seen here eating nachos.
Sweeney seen here eating nachos.

Regarding censorship or penalties for Fortnite players voicing their opinion: "That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder." It is refreshing to see a tech leader take a stand for free speech while other companies fumble around the topic. Blizzard should be taking notes, but the damage appears to be done as calls for a boycott continue. Epic Games Store has been a target for Internet hatred over the past few months, but this strong statement from Tim Sweeney certainly comes at a welcome time. Keep it locked on Shacknews for more news as it breaks from the front lines of the trade war.


Asif Khan is the Luminary and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

From The Chatty
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      October 10, 2019 6:40 AM


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      October 10, 2019 7:23 AM

      I'll believe it when I see it.

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        October 10, 2019 9:28 AM

        This. Easy to say now, but that money doesn't come without strings; no money does.

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          October 10, 2019 6:19 PM

          Heres how it goes

          Shareholder: Hello I am a minority shareholder, I demand you do X.
          CEO: Get fucked.

          or in the situation where they are on the board with voting rights

          Board member: Hello I am a board member, I demand you do X.
          CEO: Do you have a majority?
          Board member: No.
          CEO: With all due respect, get fucked. I look forwards to our continued working relationship.

          • reply
            October 10, 2019 6:45 PM

            What about
            Shareholder: "I own 40% of your shares. I'm going to dump them all at once if you don't do X."

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              October 10, 2019 6:59 PM

              Assuming its the average CEO (headstrong asshole with immense self-belief) and not a meek caretaker, they'll believe the price represents the company fundamentals (and their presence) and any hit will be short term. Specifically, this is exactly the tack you're seeing in this story (albeit with Epic Games not being public).

              If the CEO/board majority believes China is a strategically valuable/crucial market, the situation is different, but when its just a minority shareholder complaining about their own interests I don't see much influence able to be exerted (in fact its the norm to have minority shareholders disagree with company management), unless united with a bunch of other activist shareholders.

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        October 10, 2019 10:09 AM

        has Tim or Epic done anything to give us any reason that they wouldn't do this? I get the skepticism, but is it based on any real foundation?

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          October 10, 2019 10:14 AM


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            October 10, 2019 10:16 AM

            what has EGS actually done that is bad? yes, it's under-featured but they have added new features every single month. and they had a data leak I believe, but every website and service has basically had one.

            so what exactly about 'epic awful launcher' tells us that Tim and Epic would capitulate?

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              October 10, 2019 10:19 AM

              The prior UE launcher devs used magically upgraded itself to the epic store and auto downloaded Fortnite with literally no interaction on my part.

              It got uninstalled and banned from my system after that.

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                October 10, 2019 10:21 AM

                And read Mark Kern's comments Asif linked yesterday for a view on Chinese money in the industry.


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                  October 10, 2019 10:32 AM

                  but that neither of those things give us any read into how they might react to a censorship issue IMO. you seem to be jumping a might canyon to make that connection IMO.

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                    October 10, 2019 10:34 AM

                    You asked what they'd done that was bad, that's what I was answering.

                    I already posted a wait and see response above.

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                  October 10, 2019 2:44 PM

                  Mark Kern is a garbage source btw, an opportunist and a grifter.

                  At best this applies:

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                    October 10, 2019 2:53 PM

                    I can't say anything; I have no familiarity. Though given what he said were I to read up on him I'd also be reading up on those talking about him.

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                      October 10, 2019 5:59 PM

                      He's basically another Derek Smart, difference is that he mismanaged and cratered far bigger projects.

                      tldr for the last decade is that he was an ineffective boss who was highly abusive to his workers, he spent millions on a film studio and production equipment to promote his game that wasn't even in pre-alpha (they made other "geek" content that had absolutely nothing to do with the game), he was ousted from his company after bleeding money without shipping anything, after that he hitched his wagon to gamergate and amplified/directed abuse to individuals, and he continues to insert himself whenever some culture war nonsense or drama (or credit himself for WoW Classic).

                      Oh, and he also made this thing that apparently didn't even work:

                      Again, he's basically another Derek Smart, addicted to drama and somehow he keeps popping up every couple years. Also like Derek Smart, he's actually right this one time (Star Citizen is a sham, Blizzard cowing to Chinese pressure sucks)

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              October 10, 2019 10:27 AM


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              October 10, 2019 10:28 AM

              He was making a play on words, making it sound like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! You read a lot into it though lol.

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          October 10, 2019 10:57 AM

          At this point, Epic has not done anything publicly to show they are in Tencent's/China's pocket. (outside of 40% being owned by Tencent)

          The closest tangible thing is when the EGS first came up, it scummed off a lot of data from your Steam profile after you gave it permission. A few reddit posts went full tin-foil, that it was sending that data to China, but Epic later admitted they didn't mean to grab that much. Whether you trust them on that, that's your choice, but that is the full extent that we can document questionable activity.

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            October 10, 2019 11:56 AM

            I went looking for the epic board of directors and can't find it listed publicly.

            and that scraping issue sounds more like a bug vis something deep state related IMO

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              October 10, 2019 12:00 PM

              There are two Tencent ppl on the board as part of that 40%.

              But at least to me, that does raise any immediate alarms. Having researched into the video game market in China, if any foreign company wants to play in there, they *have* to go through a Chinese owned firm. And Epic was more seeking Tencents knowledge of how to do GaaS/F2P globally, and only by happenstance stumbled onto Fortnite Battle Royale as a major success.

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                October 10, 2019 12:02 PM

                that DOESNT raise any immediate alarms.

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                October 10, 2019 12:04 PM

                good info. and yes, just having board members doesn't mean they have sway on specific actions.

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                October 10, 2019 1:34 PM

                Ya the Chinese investors I got to talk to in the past were all very explicit about how you access Chinese consumers through them, they are essentially state funded gate keepers and you need to buy into each province separately because they all have their own independent localized state funded companies that demand money for access. At least in film production it was this way.

                Also a massive amount of nepotism and bribery right out in the open like it's just normal business. I got some really nice meals out of it though, they like to butter you up with food and then ask you to give their nephew a job, it's okay because he likes Tarantino and is currently in film school.

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      October 10, 2019 9:12 AM

      "Until I actually have to cross that bridge, and then I'll totally go with whatever china says, because money.
      But it sounds good for right now!"

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      October 10, 2019 9:51 AM

      I don't understand how having Chinese shareholders is relevant. I don't think Chinese officials are afraid to tell you exactly what to do or expel you from China if you don't comply whatever your ownership.

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        October 10, 2019 9:55 AM

        When you're doing business over there, yes. Having Chinese shareholders also affects what you do here. See the NBA for a current example.

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      October 10, 2019 10:15 AM

      It's good of him to say this (Sweeny has seemed like a mostly alright guy, right?), but yeah the real test will be when something big happens and China's state papers write about it.

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      October 10, 2019 1:39 PM

      Too bad Epic doesn’t support gamers’ “right” to express their views about the games on the Epic Game Store.

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          October 10, 2019 2:29 PM


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          October 10, 2019 4:18 PM

          Why do gamers hate the epic store again?

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            October 10, 2019 6:09 PM

            cause idiots cant spend 2 seconds opening another launcher. they want to erase all the good deeds epic is doing by pumping more money into game developers in exchange for exclusives. theyd rather see indie devs on welfare

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              October 10, 2019 6:18 PM

              that's not it at all. wtf.

              it didn't have search. SEARCH.
              it doesn't have cloud saves.
              no gifting.
              no matchmaking/server infrastructure.
              exclusives are never a good thing for consumers.
              so on and so forth.

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                October 10, 2019 6:32 PM

                It’s had cloud saves since before BL3 shipped. Games have to implement it so older games don’t have it yet.

                Please be accurate.

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                  October 10, 2019 7:23 PM

                  cool so a few weeks. glad they got that in there finally

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            October 10, 2019 6:14 PM

            buying out exclusive rights for games and thus having to install yet another launcher i think

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            October 10, 2019 7:29 PM

            Free games. Surviving Mars is the current freebie.

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          October 10, 2019 5:04 PM

          Is that a good book to read?

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          October 10, 2019 6:31 PM

          As an aside, it's weird to me that you can't just go buy new PC games at a store anymore..

    • reply
      October 10, 2019 7:03 PM


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